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Wells Fargo cuts 161 Minnesota jobs, blames re-fi downturn

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Wells Fargo is laying off 161 mortgage employees in the Twin Cities, part of a national job slashing effort that was announced on Wednesday.

The Business Journal reports that the San Francisco-based bank notified 2,323 employees of the decision. The laid off workers got a 60-day notice and will be eligible for tenure-based severance if the bank can not find them work in other areas of the company.

Wells Fargo laid off 700 mortgage workers earlier this month, but the metro area was spared in that round of cuts.

In DesMoines, 87 were laid off, according to the DesMoines Register. Wells Fargo employs about 13,500 in the Des Moines region, where its home mortgage unit is based. It is the area's largest private employer.

A spokeswoman for the bank said that the slowing consumer demand for mortgage refinancing led to the staff trimming. Higher interest rates have made refinancing less appealing to homeowners. Interest rates on 30-year fixed mortgages have inceased from below 3.5% last spring to about 4.5% today, according to Bankrate.com.

"After evaluating the current market and our business needs, we are reducing staff to better align and increase the efficiency of our organization." Wells Fargo spokeswoman Peggy Gunn said in a statement to the Business Journal.

Wells Fargo's share of the mortgage market has grown dramatically in recent years and the bank now funds about a quarter of all the home loans in the U.S.

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